Srinagar: When class 9 student Ishfaq Majeed Malik’s mother tried to deter him from joining protestors in Handwara, he asked her if she would stop him from protesting against his sister’s molestation. Half an hour after arriving from school on Tuesday, Ishfaq left his home along with his friends in a cab to travel four kilometers from Galoora Jamia Masjid to Handwara chowk.
Ishfaq’s mother, Haseena, said she followed him up to some distance to stop him from leaving. “But he did not listen to me and hid behind a tree to avoid me. He told me how could he sit at home when his sister was molested,” she recounted while sitting by the bed of her son, who is recuperating at Srinagar’s Bone and Joint Hospital with a bullet injury in his right leg.
At Handwara chowk, said Ishfaq, some protestors torched the army bunker in the middle of the road. “Announcements were made from the public address system of a nearby masjid appealing police to withdraw from the spot. But the police fired teargas canisters, chilly grenades and resorted to intense aerial firing.”
“When protestors did not relent despite police firing and shelling, the army soldiers inside the bunker fired at the protestors,” he said, addding “I could not see anyone around barring me and another protestor lying in the middle of road. A pin drop silence had engulfed the chowk suddenly. I could not walk properly. When I looked at my leg, I saw blood oozing out and I panicked.” Later, he was removed to district hospital Handwara from where he was shifted to Bone and Joint Hospital.
Haseena, whose husband Abdul Majid Malik runs a canteen near the court in the town, said she learnt about his son’s injury after an ambulance stopped near her house and she saw Ishfaq on a stretcher.
22-year-old Rayees Ahmad Sheikh, a cab driver, was parking his vehicle in the town during the protests when he received a bullet in his chest, said his elder brother Shabir Ahmad Sheikh. “I called Rayees to park his Sumo in the town and avoid driving the vehicle home because of the protests,” he said outside SKIMS Soura’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit, where Rayees is battling for his life. Rayees needed 9 pints of blood infusion.
After 10 minutes, Shabir said, someone called him from his brother’s phone to say that Rayees was hit by a bullet. “Rayees had to undergo a 4-hour long surgery last night. I only saw him at 7am (on Wednesday), but since then, we have not been allowed to meet him in the ICU,” said another of Rayees’ brothers.
While the government has ordered a probe, the brothers say they have no idea about it. “No government official, politician or separatist visited us here,” they said.
23 other people were also injured in the protests that followed allegations of a school girl being molested by an army man in Handwara.